DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and the ensuing wave of higher-quality documentaries suggest that advancing technology and cheaper costs are getting video equipment into the right hands, not just the many hands. And Amy Berg's HD-captured Deliver Us from Evil is further proof of this boon to discriminating filmgoers. Like recent smart offerings, it also achieves the genre's winning trifecta: compelling theme, great access and technical polish.
Making her debut with this feature, Berg, with a background in TV news, knows how to dig and coax cooperation from her subjects. Her big "get" is Oliver O'Grady, an Irish-born, former California-based priest who molested kids for more than two decades. Following conviction and an early release from prison for this felony, O'Grady, now retired, lives comfortably in Ireland, thanks to an annuity from the Catholic Church.
Most startling is the fact that O'Grady is also comfortable talking, without remorse, to the camera about his serial abuses. He does offer, "It should not have happened," but he could just as well be talking about a nasty cold that got him. With his lack of emotion, he recalls Adolf Eichmann, that other dull, pasty-faced miscreant who inspired Hannah Arendt's notion of just how banal an evil man can be.
Berg also unearths actual deposition footage involved in the case against O'Grady. We see the accused talking about being a victim himself, abused by a priest "maybe two or three" times. Depositions from the higher-ups of the Church-Cardinal Roger Mahony (Archibishop of Los Angeles) and Monsignor Cain (Vicar of Stockton)-are intimate pictures of uneasy power players hard at work squirming out of their roles as O'Grady's enablers.
Although there is evidence to the contrary (even from O'Grady himself!), Mahony denies any close relationship with the accused. But it is Mahony who helps move O'Grady from parish to parish-from Lodi to Stockton to San Andreas-as the priest's addictive sexual escapades with both girls and boys and his cunningly strategic modus operandi of gaining family trust grow more evident. In his deposition, Mahony obfuscates the truth by pleading the Church's Fifth-the many "protected communications" within the church.
On the victim side, Bob and Maria Jyono are among the most forthcoming. Their daughter Ann kept her abuse secret for years, afraid she'd anger her parents. After all, O'Grady was their close family friend, spending many hours at the Jyono home. Bob explodes angrily at the betrayal and the "rape" of his daughter. Maria, Irish-born like the priest, is more restrained, but her sorrow is just as palpable. Also angry is Adam M., an abuse survivor whose vile language hurled at O'Grady and accusation of sodomy convey the severe damage done.
And leave it to survivor attorneys John Manly and Jeff Anderson to wax eloquent and sensational on the matter of O'Grady's crimes. Anderson guesses that, just in the U.S., there are thousands of abuse cases involving priests that have yet to be exposed.
Reform advocate Father Tom Doyle, a historian and Canon Law expert, is the liberal and scolding Catholic Church insider here, sharing insights into what the strict laws of celibacy and hierarchical church structure have rendered. He notes that "the dishonesty comes from the top."
The frequency of abuse, the doc maintains, is also a matter of the kinds of young men the Church attracts. Like O'Grady, who says he was abused by an older brother who also abused his sister, these men are too often from damaged backgrounds.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the movie is why O'Grady gave so generously to the filmmakers. Lawsuits in the works suggest further agendas of several of the victims and legal eagles who cooperated, but O'Grady-although living with impunity in far-away Ireland-is another matter.
Deliver Us from Evil is a riveting, emotionally charged and startling big-screen experience. But it does more than just deliver to filmgoers. It may find a Holy Grail of real societal change for a larger constituency, as a recent front-page New York Times article suggested. Thanks to this film, California authorities are expected to revisit the actions of Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Grand Pardoner.
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